Fighting poverty and trafficking, through education is the mission of at least one non-government organization I am familiar with. This ‘good news’ story is important to tell. We all agree that trafficking is a bad thing and that a workable model, to educate as a way to reduce the vulnerability to trafficking is a way that each of us can do something.
In my 14 years working for Microsoft, I accepted a difficult challenge to move the needle on diversity, specifically on gender where there is a chronic problem in attracting, retaining and developing women in technical roles (STEM). Since 10 of those years were spent in Asia I learned some interesting perspectives and, to not least, understand the bias that I and all of us bring into every meeting and interview.
This work on hiring, retaining and developing female talent also brought me into contact with UN Women’s Committee in Singapore who have inspirational programs around education, trafficking, girls and young women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and a host of related issues in the South East Asian region.
When the UN Women team asked me to speak as part of their #HeForShe programs it seemed an ideal chance to bring these strands together in a single line of thought, what amazed me was that the thread that would bring that together – feminism.
The young woman who very politely asked me what I (the only man present) was doing, at a Womens’ Networking event, was not prepared for what followed, when she said, “Well, I’m not a feminist…”. Why not? Was my question why wouldn’t you expect your boyfriend, brother, uncle, father to support you in having the same choices that they have?
Feminism is about choice but has become tainted with the worst of equality. I want equality only in choice. Beyond that I believe in meritocracy and duty. Adding duty ensures that if you are fortunate to be better at something that others then there is a duty to support and give back to others just as you been blessed.
Equality, let’s say an equal number of male vs female airline pilots is a stupid goal. Equality for male and female to choose pilot as a career is what feminism means to me. After that I want the best pilots to succeed and the worst to fail irrespective of gender.
I even heard a senior manager from one of the top accounting firms claim that his company had achieved wage equality across the genders. What he meant by this was that for a given job and experience pay was about equal.
What he did not mean was that if you add up all the money paid to men and all the money paid to women that these would be 50:50. Why is it that we all turn a blind eye to who sits in the lowest paid jobs? Does it really represent any of our experience of the world, our friends and families that mostly women should be secretaries, nurses and primary school teachers? It certainly does not represent my experience which has seen at least as many inspirational, brilliant, warm and talented women as it has men.
Feminism is being curious about things that make no sense, about continuing to say NO! to women being more likely to experience abuse, exploitation, bias and prejudice on our watch.
We must be forced to look out of the window and see that this is far far far from the experience for most women. I am proud to be a feminist and I take responsibility for making sure all the women in my community have the same choices.